Release Date: Apr 12, 2011
Record label: We Are Free Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock
Fears Ponytail had split can be shelved with this ecstatic, mind-altering third album. Three years ago, they exploded with a feral mix of shrieks and pummeling freak-outs like the bastard child of Karen O and Boredoms. Here, they iron it out into something more epic and exploratory. Strange basslines float under guitars that riff on high-life note-picking and fractured, heavy rhythms.
There's a particular stance that singer Molly Siegel takes when Ponytail plays live, usually at the start of their shows, where she looks ready to throw herself headlong into battle. You can see it in this clip of "Beg Waves", a song that originally surfaced on the Baltimore group's second record, Ice Cream Spiritual. Siegel stands rooted at the edge of the stage, right in the audience's faces, with her tiny frame spread as wide as it could possibly go.
Despite the freewheeling title, Do Whatever You Want All the Time is Ponytail's most controlled outburst. The band went on hiatus shortly after touring in support of its second album, the mighty Ice Cream Spiritual!, and its members pursued other projects ranging from guitarist Dustin Wong's solo album to drummer Jeremy Hyman's stint with the Boredoms and singer Molly Siegel's self-discovery, but they reunited after less than a year apart. The band's time off may have been brief, but during that time Ponytail's sound matured considerably.
At some point, cocaine became normalized. There used to be a time when the idea, “Weed is one thing, but coke?” meant something. Now, jokes about coke have become commonplace. The erratic behavior of a certified coke-head have been condoned. And a national space agency has given “getting ….
A title that could double as the ethos of the band behind it, Do Whatever You Want All the Time also represents growth for Ponytail, whose music up to now has resembled abstract expressionist painting: all kinds of things thrown up against a wall. Far more controlled and melodic than the sustained tantrum of Ice Cream Spiritual, this album deepens the grab-bag aesthetic by taking more time to carve niches in the band’s prickly noise textures. The Baltimore group has been compared to Deerhoof, fellow weirdoes who turn music into wildly expressive play.
I once saw a Dan Deacon show where he led a bunch of hipsters in the crowd out in a massive conga line around the venue. It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen, the Timmy Mallet cunts. Similarly, the music of [a]Ponytail[/a] can at times feel like you’re accidentally wandering in on some sort of primal therapy session for the terminally ironic.But the truth is they’re more like modern kids in search of a soul.
As you hear the soft panpipes, electronic whizzes and Molly Siegel’s vocal coos at the beginning of “Easy Peasy”, the first track from Ponytail’s new record, you might wonder if these artsy Baltimore spaz-rockers have suddenly gone the way of their old tourmates High Places in the year since they essentially called it quits. Two minutes in, the guitars arrive and kick things up a few notches, yet Ponytail still bear as much resemblance to whimsical indie as to their previous crazy selves. Ice Cream Spiritual (2008) was special and underrated, an album of unbridled brawn and multicolored explosions just as rock was trending softer and loopier.
Ponytail’s previous record, 2008’s Ice Cream Spiritual, was so busting with explosive urgency that it felt like an arrival. The ideas weren’t new — and it wasn’t the group’s first record — but it was executed with such breathless inspiration that it demanded a wide-eyed attention that it rightly received. Do Whatever You Want All The Time, by contrast, is tepid and uneventful, and proof that the band’s previous work didn’t succeed solely on its raucousness.
Once at a student short film festival, I suffered the extreme misfortune of watching an aspiring arty-type masturbate onscreen for five uninterrupted minutes in grainy black and white. Listening to noise-pop four piecePonytail’s latest album Do Whatever You Want All The Time was a not dissimilar experience. Both creations were undoubtedly an absolute pleasure to produce but stick mainly in the memory through the sheer displeasure of experiencing them.